A replica of Einstein's iconic leather jacket might be included in the new exhibit. A replica of Einstein's iconic leather jacket might be included in the new exhibit. A replica of Einstein's iconic leather jacket might be included in the new exhibit. (Photo: Courtesy the Albert Einstein Archives)

Exclusive: Einstein's prized possessions are coming to the U.S. in 2021

The famed physicist won the Nobel Prize in 1921, and it will be part of a traveling exhibit to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Albert Einstein was on a boat when he found out that he won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. He and his wife Elsa were on their way to China when a telegraph arrived on the ship with the news. Word spread, and by the time Einstein disembarked from the ship in Shanghai, the wild-haired physicist was greeted by throngs of fans.

Next year marks the centennial of Einstein receiving that Nobel, and the caretakers of his estate are planning something special for the occasion. The Albert Einstein Archives, housed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is planning a traveling exhibit across America in the fall of 2021 featuring the actual Nobel Prize as part of the tour.

Einstein's Nobel Prize from 1921 will be on display at the Asia exhibit. Einstein's Nobel Prize from 1921 will be on display at the traveling exhibit. (Photo: Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

"We intend to produce a spectacular, but also informative and educational exhibition to mark this occasion," Hanoch Gutfreund, a theoretical physicist and director of the Einstein Archives, told From The Grapevine. Gutfreund is the former president of Hebrew University, a school that Einstein helped establish when he visited Israel a century ago. The famed scientist served on the school's Board of Governors and, upon his passing in 1955, Einstein bequeathed his personal and scientific writings to the university.

The planned immersive exhibit is aimed at attracting audiences that may not usually walk into a science museum. In particular, elementary and high schools will be invited to take field trips where students can more deeply engage with Einstein in 21st-century terms. They will discover that everything from driverless cars to the search for aliens and even the wildly popular Pokémon Go game are all thanks to theories invented by Einstein. His work on relativity, gravity and curved spacetime enabled the invention of GPS devices which were first created to guide satellites in outer space – and are now used to tell you when your pizza delivery will arrive.

"Everything culturally and educational that we do, we would like to involve the next generation," said Gutfreund. To that end, the archives in Israel has been working to expand their outreach. Best-selling author James Patterson has launched a series of young adult books that follow the adventures of a teenage genius named Max Einstein. And the estate is also launching a reality show called "Finding Einstein," which aims to find young students who could be the world's next great thinker. The show is currently being developed for HBO Max and is executive produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

Details about the upcoming exhibit

Logistics and the exact schedule for the traveling exhibit are still being ironed out. Plans are for it to debut next year in New York and move across the United States, making stops at various major museums throughout the country.

This is not the first time that original items from the archives have traveled outside Israel. Perhaps the largest cache of Einstein materials toured the U.S. more than a decade ago as part of a project with the American Museum of Natural History, which made stops in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. Items in that exhibit included a large number of original manuscripts – such as pages from the general theory of relativity and family correspondences.

If past is prologue, Einstein-philes can look to an exhibit that traveled through Asia last summer which also included Einstein's Nobel Prize. In addition to the medal, that show featured more than 120 other pieces of Einstein memorabilia – including his birth certificate and an honorary doctorate he received from Harvard University. Parts of Einstein's vinyl record collection – featuring classical music from Bach and Mozart – were piped in through the speaker system. And perhaps most important, pages that were handwritten by Einstein in 1915 that contain the general theory of relativity and the famous "E=mc2" equation were available for all to see.

Albert Einstein delivering his Nobel Lecture to the Nordic Assembly of Naturalists in Sweden in 1923. Albert Einstein delivering his Nobel Lecture to the Nordic Assembly of Naturalists in Sweden in 1923. (Photo: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

The curators at the archives in Israel said that they are in the initial stages of choosing which items will go on display next fall. Meanwhile, the creative agency known as Code and Theory will be designing the actual exhibit, which will use immersive projections, motion tracking and RFID technology to personalize the experience for every visitor. The New York-based firm has previously worked on reimagining CNN's distinctive "Magic Wall" for the 2018 midterm elections.

"This new audience may be surprised to find out how deeply relevant and pervasive Einstein as a person and as a scientist are to our modern world," Code and Theory said in a statement. "From smartphones to solar power, the internet to financial markets, our world is built on top of his discoveries. And the humanitarian issues he championed, from pacifism to refugee aide, are just as relevant today."

Gutfreund said that he is now in the process of approaching a number of prominent scientists to serve on an advisory board for the exhibition. "We are truly planning a cultural happening, unlike any of those that we have seen before."

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Exclusive: Einstein's prized possessions are coming to the U.S. in 2021
The famed physicist won the Nobel in 1921, and will be part of traveling exhibit called 'Einstein: Visualize the Impossible' to celebrate its 100th anniversary.